Parker DNA Project: Parker Family of Lawrence County, Alabama

In February 2021, members of the Parker Family, Lawrence County, Alabama Facebook group organized an effort to verify their ancestry through a Y-DNA project. This page is a summary of that project and its findings. Download our PDF presentation.


We had several objectives for the study:

  1. Prove or disprove common hypotheses about Parker ancestry circulated online (e.g. John Parker and Elizabeth Carroll as parents of Parker Cove Parkers)
  2. Establish with DNA that the Parker Cove brothers were actually brothers.
  3. Connect definitively to a Parker family ancestral line and hopefully determine true parentage of Parker Cove Parkers.


There were four known Parker siblings who came to Lawrence County, who are called the Parker Cove Parkers:

  1. William S. Parker (ca. 1799–1878) md. (1) Charity Skidmore (née Castleberry?), (2) Catherine Hardin.
  2. Rhoda Parker (ca. 1804–aft. 1880) md. Elijah B. Castleberry.
  3. John T. Parker (1808–1878) md. Mary C. Neeley.
  4. Lewis Parker (1809–1879) md. Polly Ann Gentry.

All were born in Tennessee according to census, and came to Lawrence County, Alabama, by the 1850s. Their parents are unknown. A number of theories have been put forward over the years, and a prevalent “consensus” imposed by’s algorithms, of which I was highly skeptical.


We conducted three Y-DNA tests on three different men, each descended from a different Parker brother: one from William, one from John, and one from Lewis. We tested using Family Tree DNA’s Y37 test.


Objective #1: Prove or disprove common hypotheses.

Our testing proved conclusively that our Parkers are not the descendants of John M. Parker and Elizabeth Ann Carrell, who were the prevailing consensus in trees and other popular websites to be the parents of the Parker Cove Parkers.

Male-line descendants of the John M. Parker family had previously tested at Family Tree DNA and were shown to be Y-DNA haplogroup I-L801.

Male-line descendants of the Lewis Parker and John T. Parker families of Lawrence County, Alabama, however, were shown to be Y-DNA haplogroup R-Z301.

These two lines are unrelated and do not share a common male ancestor in thousands of years.

Objective #2: Establish with DNA that the Parker Cove brothers were actually brothers.

Two of the three tests, for Tester #1 (John T. Parker) and Tester #2 (Lewis Parker) came back as matches for each other, proving that they have a common male-line ancestor and are likely brothers as believed.

Tester #3 (William S. Parker) came back with a divergent Y-DNA haplogroup, and was not a match for the other two. However, he has autosomal matches with other Parker descendants. This indicates that there may have been a non-paternity event at the highest level, perhaps William S. Parker being a half-brother to the other two (i.e. having the same mother but a different father).

More testing, on descendants of different sons of William S. Parker, is in order to further study this problem.

Objective #3: Determine the true ancestral line of the Parker Cove Parkers.

To our surprise, the majority of our Parkers’ Y-DNA matches were to men named Park(e) or Parks. In particular, many of these men trace their ancestry to Roger Parke, born 1648 in Lancashire, England, a Quaker who immigrated to New Jersey in 1682.

We are probably looking at a name change, from Park(e) to Parker, within 4–6 generations before our Parker Cove Parkers.

Roger Parke Sr., the immigrant ancestor, had two documented sons, John Parke (1677–1703) and Roger Parke Jr. (1684–1755). John Parke went to Hampshire County, Virginia (now West Virginia). It is probably a good bet, based on migration patterns, that he is our ancestor. Our closest Y-DNA matches appear to support this hypothesis.

Additional work

In July 2022, we upgraded Tester #1’s Y-DNA test to a Big-Y 700, the most advanced Y-DNA test available. The results confirm that the Parker haplogroup is R-Z301. As of yet, we have no close Big-Y matches.